External amps with receivers: Why?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by RichardMA, May 3, 2002.

  1. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    Not that separate amps aren't superior, they generally are,

    but why do it if there is an alternative?

    I started doing this just after I got into home theater,

    about 12 years ago. But I got away from it because I

    couldn't stand the thought of my receiver amps sitting idle. It seemed like a waste of property and power.

    Also, why have a unit that cross-contaminates itself by

    having power amps and signal sections in the same box,

    if you have the power amp/preamp alternative?

    So I decided to go with amps and preamp processors.

    But I'm wondering why anyone would spend $3000 on a top

    line receiver now only to buy separate amps for it?

    Why not just buy a preamp and use it with separate amps?

    Is it most of the time a case of someone buying a receiver,

    finding out it's amps aren't that good, and then adding

    the separate power amps?
     
  2. chung

    chung Stunt Coordinator

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    Try buying a pre-pro with the same features as a Sony STR-DA5ES, or a HK AVR520, at the same price-point (and availability). You can always use the internal amps for the surrounds.
     
  3. Frank_S

    Frank_S Supporting Actor

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    Quote:Is it most of the time a case of someone buying a receiver, finding out it's amps aren't that good, and then adding the separate power amps? "

    I think that you pretty much nailed it. A lot of us took this route on our way to separates, I guess you could call it baby steps. Buy a receiver, seek better performance, buy external amps, use receiver as pre/pro. After that comes a separate pre/pro and the receiver is either sold or moved to another room.

    Quote: "But I'm wondering why anyone would spend $3000 on a top line receiver now only to buy separate amps for it? "

    Receivers generally are ahead of separate pre/pro's in the newest formats(DPL II, DTS-ES, THX-Ultra II, etc.)so some folks don't want to wait for separate processors when a receiver is out there for the taking with all the latest available options.
     
  4. flenn

    flenn Agent

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    Good point Chung. I posed basically the opposite of this question to the board, and got no definitive answer why I SHOULD get a pre/pro over a receiver. When a receiver offers the features/performance of say, the DA5ES, why would you want to spend more on a pre/pro? On paper, the specs surpass some pre/pros that cost twice as much. Plus, with a receiver, you get an amp to boot! I have a 5 channel amp and am looking for the best bang for the buck to switch my sources, decode sound formats, and allow me to adjust my speakers to suit the source and room. I'm not fully convinced a pre/pro is the answer.
     
  5. AntonS

    AntonS Stunt Coordinator

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    RichardMA,

    If you compare receivers to separates with about the same set of features, you'll find that separates cost 3-5 times more. I think economies of scale have been mentioned here befeore quite a few times.

    The main problem with receivers is not that they have inferior pre/pro section (they usually don't), but that there is no space in the box to put decent transformers and amplifiers, plus the amplifiers may introduce interference (generally through power/ground lines) when used. If you don't use the internal amps and just let them idle, there is not much difference between a pre/pro and a reciever.

    Now, $3K receiver usually has outstanding pre/pro section. By the way are you talking about Denon 5803? I think it's the only one over $3K. Even the 49TX, which is loaded with features, can be found for about $2400. Now, tell me which $3K pre/pro that you know is THX Ultra2? Which one has 192kHz DACs running in dual differential mode in pure stereo? The 5803 is actually not a bad choice for a pre/pro even if you never ever use its amps...
     
  6. Kevin. W

    Kevin. W Screenwriter

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  7. Robert_Dufresne

    Robert_Dufresne Stunt Coordinator

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    Richard
    A lot of people here jump on the receiver trashing
    bandwagon as soon as they see the word seperates in the title of a thread. They love seperates and thats fine.
    If you read more threads on this site you will find
    that a lot of people have and love their receiver
    and that they dont feel the need to add a seperate
    amplifier .
    A while back I was at the Montreal Sound and Light show
    and I had a chance to compare the sound of systems powered
    by the best amps out there such as Krell and McIntosh.
    Shure they sounded great but for my money, so did the
    Denon 4802.
    Robert[​IMG]
     
  8. chung

    chung Stunt Coordinator

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    In my case, I already have a separate 2-channel system that I am happy with. When it was time to get the latest HT formats, multi-channel inputs, etc., I was looking at pre/pros at first. But it has been very clear that for what I need, separate pre-pros are not a good value. I don't need great stereo performance from my pre-pro, because I have a spearate analog preamp. I honestly cannot tell one good HT processor from another, because they are all about sound effects, and accuracy has a different meaning. I don't really know how those gun-shots are supposed to sound[​IMG]. The HT receivers I have listened to all are excellent with HT, and I am happy that those receivers have no trouble handling the center and the rear surrounds. I have a separate 5-channel power amp that I do not use now, since my HT receiver (HK 510) and my 2-channel power amp take care of all my amplifying needs. The fact that I am happy with the 2-channel performance of the HK is a bonus.
    Maybe it's just me, when I watch a movie, having great sound is very nice, but I am much more interested in watching the movie than admiring the sound effects. Most of the movies that I love are not heavily into special effects. I doubt very much if a $3K+ pre-pro can give me any better enjoyment of movie or 2-channel music than what I have now. When I watch concert DVD's, I find myself using the 2-channel PCM format more and more often (some of my favorites don't even have surround sound options), so good DD/DTS decoding is not really that necessary. 6.1 or 7.1 is a total non-issue for me. IMHO, if you have a limited budget, spending money on speakers, video equipment and DVD's/CD's makes a lot more sense than getting the latest expensive HT processor.
    For those who want the pre-pro to serve both HT and stereo duties, it may be a lot cheaper to get a separate stereo analog preamp. They seem to be readily available in the used market, and are almost guaranteed to work as well in stereo as any pre-pro, if not better.
     
  9. Tim Baldwin

    Tim Baldwin Stunt Coordinator

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    I have to echo Chung's comments on my awareness and attentiveness during music vs movies. Now, if one is going to do critical listening to multi-channel music, then ...

    And before you dismiss multi-channel music as mostly gimmicky (as i have/did) read about and listen to David Chesky's philosophy and 2/4/6 recordings. This has encouraged me (tho i'm not on the bandwagon quite yet).
     
  10. Paul Clarke

    Paul Clarke Supporting Actor

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    Well said, Chung. We have the same taste in receivers. I too would only feel the need for a 2 channel or possibly a 3 channel amp sometime in the future as an upgrade but not because of any perceived lacks in the 510. I find the onboard amplification easily handles the demands of my current listening space and my audio-video tastes. No, rather such an addition would be useful for coping with more demanding speakers and/or larger listening environments. Although I know it should occur as a consequence, right now I can't imagine there would that noticeable an increase in sound quality.
     
  11. chung

    chung Stunt Coordinator

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  12. Steve_Tk

    Steve_Tk Cinematographer

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    You all make it sound like that a HT is crap if they don't spend over $3K on recievers alone.
     
  13. MatthewJ S

    MatthewJ S Supporting Actor

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    Isee the points made here as mostly good except I try to entirely discurage mismatching amps (as well as speakers) because if doing multi-channel right isn't important to you then stay with 2 channel....

    Also, I have been trying to get someone who works for tag, lex., etc to state the main differances in sound/build quality of the PRE-OUT section of a rcvr vs. those of seperate pre-pro's...this is where units deliver the final "sound" to the outboard amps...........
     
  14. MiltK

    MiltK Stunt Coordinator

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    Maybe because there aren't any differences between the pre-outs to make real-world differences in sound [​IMG].
    Exactly. Same argument goes for >$3K flagship receivers too when people attach separate amps to them.
     
  15. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    In my case I started with a very nice receiver at the time (a Denon 5700) and, when the 5800 came out decided that I didn't want to keep upgrading the entire receiver to take advantage of newer sound modes (in this case 6.1 sound) and re-purchase amps that were essentially the same as before. So I started with "baby steps" (as another member astutely pointed out) by purchasing three Marantz Monoblocks (MA700s) for the front sound stage.

    There were several reasons for this. I felt that relieving the Denon of some of the amplification load would not only make the front L/C/R sound better, but the surrounds as well (it did.) Also, when I finally was ready to upgrade to a 7.1 pre/pro I could still use the Denon to power all the surrounds until I was ready for separate amps.

    Several of my friends went the 5700->5800->5803 route and are just as happy. With the introduction of pre/pros like the Outlaw 950 and the Rotel 1066 the price differential is no longer what it once was for new equipment.

    Different strokes for different folks.
     
  16. MatthewJ S

    MatthewJ S Supporting Actor

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    How many others believe that there is no differance in the sound that comes out of a rcvr vs a dedicated pre-pro?
     
  17. AntonS

    AntonS Stunt Coordinator

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    Matthew,

    At comparable (let's say 2 to 1) prices? When both connected to external amp? I believe that it's all in the design. Receiver can sound worse than a dedicated pre/rpo, or may actually sound better. These days they all use very similar DACs and DSPs (in many cases actually same DACs and DSPs). The main DSP code beacuse of its complexity is written by DSP manufacturers, not by the equipment manufacturers, so it's the same for everybody. What is left is good boards layout and quality components (most importantly in preamp section.) There is no reason to believe that in high end (and even mid end) receivers they use worse quality components. There is no reason to believe that engineers at, let's say, Denon or H/K or Pioneer are less competent than, let's say, at Rotel or Outlaw. Actually, there are reasons to believe that it may be exactly the opposite as big companies can hire better engineering resources.
     
  18. MatthewJ S

    MatthewJ S Supporting Actor

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    Anton , there is a reason to believe that rcvrs use cheaper parts, it's COST....While I agree that the processor sections are becoming more similar, the dacs can be differant between rcvrs. As the higher end rcvrs ussually have better dacs , most mnfgrs don't build much quality into pre-outs that most of their customers will not use...
     
  19. Aslam Imran

    Aslam Imran Second Unit

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  20. AntonS

    AntonS Stunt Coordinator

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    Aslam,

    Actually dual differential mode is one of the things in audio design that's not a marketing hoopla. It gives you extra 6dB of S/N ratio over same DACs running without it. It does not make sound warmer or smoother, it makes sound cleaner. Btw, warm sound may be actually not clean sound with more harmonics in it.

    Of course one can argue that the value of, let's say, 106dB against 112dB of S/R ratio isn't worth the troubles of complicating the desing and raising the cost. Also, it does not make sense having it in the receiver or pre/pro if your CD/DVD player has it already, and many players do have it.

    As far as pre/pros go, I know that Lexicon MC-12 runs its DACs in dual differential mode, but don't know any other pre/pros that do that.
     

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